Kia sets its sights squarely on the Europeans with this 365 bhp, rear-wheel drive sports sedan
Photos by Marcus Lim
When it comes to sports sedans, Kia isn’t one that immediately comes to mind, with the European V8 (now rather, turbocharged V6) stalwarts such as the Audi S4 or turbocharged Japanese four-cylinder sedans such as the Lexus IS300 invariably being the first people think of. As a manufacturer of budget-friendly and reliable commuter cars, Kia might have felt a little left out of this high-power party – so now comes the Stinger GT.
Conceptualised as the Kia GT Concept back in 2011 at the Frankfurt Motor Show, the low and wide grand tourer with suicide doors got tongues wagging with its radical styling and rather un-Kia-like rear-wheel drive layout. 6 years on, the production car we have here today looks darn close to the concept with aggressive vents, sweeping roofline and wraparound taillights.
Specified in ‘Hi Chroma Red’, the test car did well turning heads no matter where it went. The large 19-inch wheels housing red Brembo calipers (4-piston front, 2-piston rear) and its burbly exhaust note helped too, giving the uninitiated the impression that it was a car pricier than it was – a passerby even referred to it as a ‘red Maserati’.
Aimed squarely at the German stalwarts such as the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series, the Stinger’s interior is well equipped and inviting. There’s plenty of kit for all occupants, with everyone cocooned in lovely ventilated Nappa leather seats. Entertainment comes courtesy of an 8-inch infotainment display paired with a 15-speaker Harmon/Kardon sound system; driver gets a heads-up display (HUD) that handily displays the blind spot warning system icons in addition to the regular speed and GPS information.
The Stinger may stand up to its European competitors in terms of equipment levels, but the Europeans still triumph in build and material quality. To the Stinger’s credit, surfaces where one would usually come into contact with - such as the steering wheel, door handles and infotainment controls - feel decently well put together, but the finish of plastics on the dash still have some room for improvement.
Now for the exciting bit - with all the fanfare surrounding the Stinger GT since its worldwide debut, everyone’s curious to know how it drives. I’m pleased to report that its aggressive exterior styling is writing cheques that its drivetrain can cash. 0-100 km/h takes just 4.9 seconds, with a seemingly endless surge of torque that makes the driver go from ‘oh damn’ to ‘holy crap’ when the turbos kick in.
This manic level of performance is thanks to the 3.3-litre twin-turbocharged ‘Lambda’ V6 under the hood, which offers 365 bhp and 510 Nm of torque, all while returning a reasonable fuel economy of 10.1 km/l. This level of fuel economy typically isn’t seen with a car with these power levels but it’s thanks to Drive Mode Select, which offers you five modes to choose from. It bestows the Stinger GT with a Jekyll and Hyde personality – leave it in Eco or Comfort when commuting to and from the office and enjoy all of its creature comforts, and slyly engage Sport or Sport Plus if you’d like some fun.
With electronically adjustable dampers and a mechanical limited-slip differential, the Stinger GT handles acceptably well. Keen drivers might notice that the steering has a slight on-center slack due to the electric power steering, but is more than up to the task once you’re in the zone. Whether you’re hoofing it from a standstill or going round a series of twisty corners, the Stinger exhibits surprisingly excellent levels of traction for a rear-wheel drive car, but liberties should not be taken with it – it has a delightful tail happy character which allows for silly antics when the mood strikes, yet is tame enough when driven sensibly.
In my entire time with the Stinger, it indeed live up to Kia’s tagline, going beyond expectations. As a grand tourer, it’s perfectly competent for commuting with its excellent ride quality; yet offers ridiculous performance with a small flex of the ankles. The Stinger GT’s an excellent all-rounder, and at its price point (S$208,999 as of April 2018), virtually unmatched for value.